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Mets morning briefing 8.8.11

Not only did the Mets lose to the Braves to fall nine games back in the wild-card race, with nemesis Chipper Jones delivering the tiebreaking RBI off Bobby Parnell, the Mets more importantly lost a pair of key players.

Daniel Murphy, who was ranked fifth in the National League in batting at .320, suffered a Grade 2 tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee when Atlanta speedster Jose Constanza slid into him at second base. A source told ESPNNewYork.com that Murphy will not require surgery, but he will require a four-month recovery time, which ends his season. Murphy suffered a strained MCL of the other knee while manning second base with Triple-A Buffalo on June 2, 2010, on a slide by then-Syracuse player Leonard Davis. Murphy was then able to play in the fall instructional league in Sarasota, Fla., and begin winter-ball play wearing a large brace Oct. 22.

This time, Murphy entered as a pinch-hitter and ended up manning second base in the seventh. An inning later, several position shuffles placed David Wright at shortstop for the first time since high school while returning other players to semi-comfortable positions.

The shortstop void, originally plugged by Justin Turner, was created when Jose Reyes -- who leads the NL in batting at .336 -- left the game with what was diagnosed as a mild pull of his left hamstring. While an MRI did not reveal anything more severe than the original pronouncement, according to a source familiar with Reyes' health, the Mets did call up Ruben Tejada to man shortstop, taking Murphy's roster spot. Reyes was not immediately placed on the DL. Sandy Alderson noted what was believed to be a mild left hamstring strain kept Reyes out for three weeks last month, so the length of the shortstop's absence is unclear.

Monday's news reports:

• The next time Murphy appears in a Mets uniform, in spring training, what position will he be? That's a good question. The best bet would be second base, assuming whatever happens with Ike Davis' ankle -- surgery or otherwise -- does not impact the start of his 2012 season. Murphy and Turner could be complementary pieces at second base, the non-starter serving as a bat for the bench. Or Murphy could assume the more regular role. (The Mets face more right-handed pitching anyway, so a straight platoon would give the left-hitting Murphy the majority of the starts.)

Read game/injury coverage in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Times, Post, Daily News and Record.

• Post columnist Kevin Kernan says Reyes has to find a pregame program that keeps him on the field. The Mets have tried no shortage of things over the years, at one point even having Reyes change to an awkward running style that he felt compelled to abandon. Writes Kernan:

Reyes has to do something different. Rickey Henderson once told me he was saddled by hamstring problems until his mother, who was a nurse, happened to come up with a stretching routine that worked best for him. Something has to change. When I asked manager Terry Collins about a preventative plan for the future with Reyes, he admitted it is a difficult situation. "I don't know what to say except that this was not a fatigue factor," Collins said. "He's only been back about two weeks. We've had two days off this week. He takes great care of himself. He's not a guy that you ever worry about not getting his rest, not doing what he needs to do. He loves to play. To be honest, he's one of those guys with lean body fat. There's nothing else to it. He's wound pretty tight and those kind of guys are like that, that have that real low body fat."

Dillon Gee allowed three homers Sunday. He had not surrendered more than one homer in any other major league start. "I just can't get a feel out there," said Gee, according to David Lennon in Newsday. "I'm just trying to throw a strike, let alone hitting spots. I've had a few like that lately. I don't know if mentally I'm just not trusting myself."

• Wright, who played shortstop for the first time since attending Hickory High School in Virginia, described the experience to Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger this way: “It’s a little over to my left. It’s not that big of an issue. The bad part is that I shouldn’t have been playing there under the circumstances. It would have been great if we were up a ton of runs and did it for fun, but under the circumstances, you don’t want to have to go do that when you lose your shortstop and then you lose (Murphy).” Read more on the position shuffling, which included Scott Hairston briefly at second base, his original position in the majors with Arizona, in the Post.

• Right-hander Zack Wheeler, the prospect acquired from the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran, tossed six scoreless innings and picked up the win in his second outing for Class A St. Lucie. He has yet to walk a batter since joining the organization. Wheeler had changed his mechanics back to his high school delivery before his final two starts in the San Francisco organization in order to improve his control. Read Sunday's full minor league recap here.

• The Mets try to regroup for a four-game series against San Diego. Read the series preview here.

Tyler Kepner of the Times speaks with ESPN analyst Barry Larkin, who reflects on his veto of a trade to the Mets during the 2000 season, in a deal that would have shipped Alex Escobar, Eric Cammack and Jason Saenz to Cincinnati. Writes Kepner:

"I’m happy I stayed where I was,” Larkin said. “In ’99, we had a one-game playoff against the Mets. So I was thinking, at that time, we still had a chance to win in Cincinnati.” Even so, Larkin said he would have come to Shea Stadium if the Mets had offered a multiyear deal. His wife was excited about it, said Larkin, who so enjoyed playing in New York that he had given his oldest daughter, Brielle, the middle name D’Shea. “I absolutely loved it there,” Larkin said. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was a kid, so I loved the roar of the engines so close to La Guardia, and the energy of the fans.” ... The Mets wanted Larkin as a rental, because they had Rey Ordonez under contract and coveted a different shortstop, Alex Rodriguez, in free agency. They ended up acquiring Mike Bordick from Baltimore for Melvin Mora.

BIRTHDAY: John Hudek, who pitched in 28 games in relief for the Mets in 1998 before being traded midseason for pinch-hitter extraordinaire Lenny Harris, was born on this date in 1966.